03 July 2012

Pepco

The Gormogons | GorTechie | Power

Like GorTechie, I lost power in the most recent DC storm. This has been a common occurrence for Mrs SB7 and I since moving into Villa SB7. This is the second time in 8 days actually. Which means it's the second time in a week that I've had to restock our fridge. Grrr. I'm beginning to think I should keep gallon jugs of ice in the fridge at all times, to boost the thermal mass. But I digress.

Also like GorTechie, I'd like to see some more accountability from Pepco. I know that utilities are natural monopolies, but I'll confess that I don't know much about the Public Service Commission, or how Pepco, WSSC, etc. operate or are overseen. I know just enough o understand there are structural reasons we get sub-par performance out of Pepco, but not enough to meaningfully comment, so consider this idle speculation.

My question is why Pepco's monopoly, despite being "natural" must be permanent? Why not have the state, or some combined MD-DC-VA organization, own the facilities and contract out the operation of them for several years at a time? Customers still wouldn't get competition between service providers at an one point in time, but we would benefit from inter-temporal competition. Is this done somewhere and I simply don't know? If not, what am I missing?




One further note on power outages: I am always impressed how well drivers manage to regulate themselves when traffic lights are out. DC drivers, in my estimation, have no other redeeming qualities. I heard news reports that three quarters of my county's traffic signals were down this weekend. I think that was a low estimate; in my trip across the county on Sunday I saw only a single working signal. And yet every intersection moved beautifully. Perhaps even more smoothly that they do when the lights are working. (Maybe throughput was lower, but utilization rates were higher.) Certainly they were working far, far better than when I see police or crossing guards directing traffic. Maybe this is just my bias showing, but it always warms my heart to see such a vivid demonstration of spontaneous, bottom-up, emergent order, especially in a such a complex and high-stakes environment.

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